• Ferhan Bulca

    I am an executive leader and a serial intrapreneur focused on innovation and design thinking. My purpose in life is to create products and services that make the world a better place to live in.

    In the course of my career, I have developed a deep understanding and expertise on all aspects of technology commercialization and product/service development. As a result, I have built multi-million dollar businesses from the ground up.

    I am the creator and the Lead Instructor for Business Innovation Certificate Program at University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies.

    I offer business consulting services and I am available as a speaker for private and public events.

    Watch my recent talk at Ashoka Canada's Changemakers event at University of Toronto on YouTube.

  • Consult with me on Maven
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 300 other followers

Financial Post Q&A on Intrapreneurship & Innovation

My Q&A session on intrapreneurship with Dan Ovsey of Financial Post is available here.

Dan did a great job in capturing the essence of my points. This is to add a supplementary piece of information regarding the five-step process I mentioned in my Q&A with Dan. You may find more information on my process at a series of my blog posts:

  1. Overview of the five-step process
  2. Step 1: Business design
  3. Step 2: Go-to-market strategy
  4. Step 3: Development
  5. Step 4: Launch
  6. Step 5: Monitor

I welcome your comments on my blog. Please share this posting if you find it helpful. If you have any questions, comments or thoughts, I would love to hear from you.

Advertisements

Why Intrapreneurship Is The Next Trend

“Innovation” and “entrepreneurship” have been trendy terms which had quite a bit of stage presence in the past five or so years. The next term that I expect we will see in the coming months and years is “intrapreneurship.”

There are two major indicators that make me come up with this prediction:

First, both US and Canadian governments put their weight behind entrepreneurship as a way to create new jobs in a longer-than-ever recession. Among thousands of entrepreneurs, who received support (government funding, coaching, mentorship, free work spaces, tax benefits, so on so forth), there are and will be successful ones. When I say “success”, I am not only referring to those who are made into poster-child cases, which are few. I am referring to those who succeed in establishing themselves as viable businesses, manage to carve out a market share and hire staff. These businesses will be run by founders for some time. Being entrepreneurs themselves, founders and early key employees will expect personalities and work habits that are similar to their own. These founders will also realize that their paradigm has to change as their companies grow and certain processes and procedures need to be incorporated. This is where intrapreneurs can help. They understand how to operate and be successful in large organizations where current structure typically hinders innovation. They also understand how to effectively use existing resources and structures to advance their goals. A seasoned intrapreneur can help successful entrepreneurs shape up their organizations as they transition from being a start-up to a growth company.

Second, both US and Canadian companies are hoarding historically high amounts of cash, which they have accumulated during recession. We had a few false starts in spending (investing in development) but these attempts did not continue. Corporations continue to be risk-averse and timid when it comes to getting into a steady cadence of investing their cash. As a result, corporate investment in R&D and new services remains low by historic standards. This cannot continue forever. US and Canadian governments started to put their weight on corporations to encourage them to put cash back into circulation through new development investments. Once the scare is over, corporations will be again in a race to outperform each other and deliver successful products and services to their markets. They will achieve this in two ways:

1) Acquisition of promising companies started by entrepreneurs. Integration of these companies and their continued success will require skills of intrapreneurs, who understand both sides of the coin.

2) Accelerate internal development. This is the sweet spot of intrapreneurs! They shine when there is sense of urgency and required support behind new products and services.

So, I think the time of intrapreneurs is near.

I welcome your comments on my blog. Please share this posting if you find it helpful. If you have any questions, comments or thoughts, I would love to hear from you.

Five Steps to Technology Commercialization – Monitor

This is the fifth and final posting in my series of “Five Steps to Technology Commercialization.” Earlier, I introduced a commercialization framework for new and innovative business development (click here to read it). The key objectives of Monitor phase are:

  • Keeping an eye on how your business is performing
    As the old management adage goes, you only improve what you measure. The success or failure of your business depends on what KPIs you monitor and what you do with them. Too many KPIs and you will be stiffled with analysis paralysis, too few KPIs and you will be shooting in the dark due to insufficient information. Finding the right balance and monitoring it regularly gives you the deep insight you need to manage your business.
  • Responding quickly and effectively to what matters, and ignore all else
    In contrast to the old management adage mentioned above, E.W. Deming says “you can only measure 3% of what matters.” So, you need to pick your KPIs carefully. The next step is creating a responsive culture, where ownerships and accountabilities are clearly defined, and response plans are articulated. Reactionary responses usually do more damage than what they fix, so plan out response thresholds and maintain a culture where accountability is king. 
  • Update and modify KPIs as market/business conditions change
    Just like taxes and death, change happens whether you like it or not. Regularly review your KPIs and response plans to ensure that you are monitoring and taking action on what is relevant to your business.

Here is how you achieve these objectives:

  1. Define key performance indicators and response plans
  2. Define accountabilities and responsibilities
  3. Create dashboards and monitor performance
  4. Establish a rapid-response culture
  5. Reward action, punish inaction

This posting concludes my series titled Five Steps to Technology Commercialization. I tried to give you a glimpse of a process that I have developed and have applied in a variety of cases. Naturally, devil is in the details. I hope the overview of the process helps you successfully deploy your own commercialization initiatives.

I welcome your comments on my blog. Please share this posting if you find it helpful. If you have any questions, comments or thoughts, I would love to hear from you.

Five Steps to Technology Commercialization – Launch

This is the fourth posting in my series of “Five Steps to Technology Commercialization.” Earlier, I introduced a commercialization framework for new and innovative business development (click here to read it). The key objectives of Launch phase are:

  • Learning from market response
    Customers will quickly respond to many decisions you have made until you decided put your product (either an early prototype or the final product) in front of customers. This is the best time to test all your assumptions (eg., features, pricing, distribution) and modify as needed. It is strongly recommended that you incorporate multiple launch phases rather than one “big bang” approach. Each of your launches should be designed to learn specific lessons to guide the remainder of your activities.
  • Creating awareness while building delivery capability
    Awareness building has to be done both with internal resources (marketing & sales) and external entities (customers, distribution channels). Creating both pull (customers) and push (sales) requires effort and time. Multiple launch phases, each aimed at a different group, are the recommended approach. Early adopters will help you jump over the chasm (a la Geoffrey Moore). This phase is the perfect time to start building relations with your customers and generating early sales. Early adopters are a different breed of customers, that you will need to nourish and learn from.
  • Identify key performance indicators (KPIs)
    Real market interaction is the best time to start building your KPIs, which you will use to make decisions later on. As I will cover in the next step, Monitor, your business success depends on what you measure and how you respond when they go out of your “ideals.” Launch phase is a good time to experiment with different sets of KPIs and decide which set provides you with the most complete picture of how your business is doing.

Here is how you achieve these objectives:

  1. Incorporate multiple launch phases into your plan
  2. Define what you intend to learn and how you intend to do it for each phase
  3. Create a quick-response culture, modify per market response
  4. Engage customers early on to create relevant leads and convert them to sales
  5. Build and optimize operational capability (production, sales, service, support, maintenance)
  6. Manage partnerships (if any)

I welcome your comments on my blog. Please share this posting if you find it helpful. If you have any questions, comments or thoughts, I would love to hear from you.

Five Steps to Technology Commercialization – Development

This is the third posting in my series of “Five Steps to Technology Commercialization.” Earlier, I introduced a commercialization framework for new and innovative business development (click here to read it). The key objectives of Development phase are:

  • Validate whether your target market(s)  care about your product/service, i.e., your value proposition
    In the earlier steps, you made assumptions about your target market(s) and their unmet needs. During Development, use opportunities to collect feedback from customers on features, functionality, aesthetics, form, fit, etc.
  • Validate your market penetration strategy
    Similarly, incorporate experiments into your Development phase to test your market penetration strategy. Do your marketing & sales assumptions work on a small scale? Can you attract a few enthusiastic early adopters?
  • Develop the right product/service
    It is easy to get your head down and develop (i.e., design, code, build). Instead, keep it iterative with structured customer and market feedback to identify what is important and what is nice-to-have.

Here is how you achieve these objectives:

  1. Identify key technologies and skills for the product.
  2. Decide on developing or buying necessary technologies.
  3. Define production, service and support strategies
  4. Develop the product and validate it against technical and market requirements
  5. Collect as much customer feedback as possible and pivot, if necessary

I welcome your comments on my blog. Please share this posting if you find it helpful. If you have any questions, comments or thoughts, I would love to hear from you.

Five Steps to Technology Commercialization – Business Design

In an earlier blog post, where I introduced a commercialization framework for new and innovative business development (click here to read it). This posting is the first of a series of postings, where I will address each step of my commercialization framework.

I will assume that when you start this exercise, you already have a technology in mind. In other words, you have a hammer and you are looking for a nail to hammer in. Many people may argue that having a solution in mind is not the ideal way to get started but this is the case most of the time. So, rather than ignoring a fact, let’s learn to make the best of it.

The first step is Business Design and I strongly recommend you start here before jumping into development. Here is a quick to-do list at this step:

  1. Identify 2-3 target markets and their unfulfilled needs
    • Identify, as specifically as you can, an unmet and recognized need in 2-3 markets.
    • Prioritize target markets and identify your top target
    • Specifically articulate the unfulfilled need of your top target
  2. Identify key functions/features to address the unfulfilled needs and assess existing products, including yours, against these key functions/features
  3. Define business model(s) for each of the target markets
    • Business case (why this business should exist?)
    • Eco-system definition (in which the business will exist)
    • How would you make money?
  4. Define potential business structures to tackle the needs of the target markets (eg. partnerships, joint ventures, IP licensing, etc.)
  5. Identify key functions & activities your business and partners, if any, need to do
  6. Identify financing options for potential business structures and assess feasibility
  7. Identify key skills your business will need and create a simple organization structure to define how these people would operate (yes, even a start-up needs one)

That’s about it. The most popular tool to put this all together is the Business Model Canvas, which you can find here.

I welcome your comments on my blog. Please share this posting if you find it helpful. If you have any questions, comments or thoughts, I would love to hear from you.

Enterprises are Critical for the Success of Innovation Hubs

A while ago, I posted an article on the role of large organizations in innovation and argued that large organizations had particular advantages to develop innovative solutions, only if they knew how to utilize those advantages.

Recently, the Global Innovation Index 2013 was published. This year’s edition focused on the local dynamics of innovation. In the report, Chapter 4 titled The Role of Enterprise Champions in Strengthening Innovation Hubs attracted my attention. The authors of the chapter argue that innovation hubs take 15-30 years of sustained public-private collaboration to become effective. The authors conclude the chapter with the following statement: “With [enterprise] champions, the odds of creating a successful innovation hub rise significantly; without them, the odds of failure are almost certain.”

I thought this chapter provided an elegant complement to my earlier argument. Large organizations (enterprises) have a lot going for them when it comes to creating innovative solutions. Unfortunately, they also have to weather strong internal headwinds to be successful in implementing innovation. Innovation hubs intend to fill this gap but I am yet to see a successful example. The problem is the “white space” between innovation hubs and enterprises. Ideally, there should be a small overlap between the needs and capabilities of hubs and enterprises. In reality, there is a gap, which I call the “white space”, between the needs and capabilities. And, this gap is creating a huge barrier for effective collaboration.

Under government funding and support, innovation hubs are trying to fill the gap but there is a role for enterprises to actively pursue the same. One-sided push is not effective. It is time for enterprises to start investing into bridging the gap, creating skill centres and capabilities to interface with innovation hubs.

I welcome your comments on my blog. Please share and like this posting if you find it helpful. If you have any questions, comments or thoughts, I would love to hear from you.

%d bloggers like this: